tv Discussion on Henry George Labor and the Gilded Age CSPAN November 27, 2015 3:00pm-4:26pm EST
inequality of the late 19th century also known as the gilded age. he explores the role of henry george a newspaper editor, and reformer who took up the fight against the separation of the classes on behalf of the labor movement. the gotham center for new york city history hosted this hour and 20 minute event. >> well thank you very much. thank you, susanne, and thank you to the gotham center. thank you to all of you coming out tonight. i know some of you are saying republican debate or henry george, republican debate or henry george. so, i'm pretty gratified you chose henry george and hopefully you'll be glad that you did. it's a great thrill always to come back to new york and to come back to the gotham center, a place that i've done other talks and people i've worked with. it's a really wonderful event. and it's particularly wonderful because i finally get to talk about this henry george book, so let me just jump right in my showing you a photo, getting a little personal here, but that's me when i started this book. and you may -- you may -- can
see i don't look quite that young anymore. a little bit harrier. someone had mentioned to me there's a henry george tree in central park. i said i did not know that and five days later i'm walking through central park, which, remember it's 840 acres, it's bigger than monaco, it's a large piece of land i reached down to tie my shoe, and there -- i'm not kidding you, tied my shoe next to the henry george tree, i don't really believe in these cosmic signs but this was a cosmic sign of some sort, i'm on the right track i better do it. and we happened to have a camera with us, too which is kind of funny. i've been working on it so long that one of my daughters who is now 25 used to ask me, daddy when are you going to finish that, or have you finished your book on curious george? so it has been a while. it's been a bit of an odyssey.
i will not tell you any of the details except life is what happens when you make firm plans. so, my first book is now out as my fourth book and it's thrilling to have it out and it is also in a strange way it's a better time for it to have come out. i wouldn't have planned it this way, but it's a better time for it to have come out because of the relevance of the topic and henry george and the very big questions that are dogging our society right now. so susanne mentioned it and i'll get started with this question about living in a second gilded age. i always resist that idea that history repeats itself. i think that's too simplistic and i think mark twain had it right when he said history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes. this is not a replay of the first, but there's an echo or a rhyme or a reflection of the early period. you can see it in literature if you look at the titles of the books, all of which have the phrase second gilded age or new gilded age in the title or the subtitle. these have all come out in recent years asking this question about, you know, are we
in a second gilded age and what does it mean. it's a pretty depressing thought to think we're back in a second gilded age, but there are reasons i think to be optimistic which we'll talk about in just a few moments. so another reason -- another way that i like to talk about henry george, this fascinating figure from the 19th century and, again, to make a connection to the present, in a lot of ways he is the thomas pickety of the late 19th century. he came out with this book "capital" a few years ago harvard university press and, boom, they sold 5,000 copies i think they could have been psyched if they sold 50,000 and essentially thomas pickety if you take the one quotation from the book you can see he's essentially arguing the same point that henry george did which is extreme inequality of wealth can be harmful to growth because it reduces mobility and it can lead to political capture by the superrich of our democratic institutions so there's a lot to worry about when it comes to inequality. it isn't that some people have a
lot of stuff and other people have less stuff it actually has very large implications for our society. let's begin and talk about henry george. he was born in 1839 to a middle-class, lower middle-class family, his father was a book salesman and george grew up in a fairly large family, fairly reasonably comfortable. a lot of people think because he wrote his famous book on poverty and talked about poverty a lot that he must have grown up in poverty. he actually experienced poverty in his middle years fairly extreme. so henry george was not a very good student. and he left school about the seventh grade. his parents just got fed up with it and his father steered him into a trade where he would learn the craft of typesetting which was a very important trade and a great opportunity. so george flourished as a typesetter but he was very ambitious and in the middle 1850s he headed out to california so, you know, so he's a very ambitious guy, he hopes
to make it big, he's not sure why, but he has the idea he's destined for something great. and once he gets out to california he's trying things and failing and living hand to mouth and sleeping in barns and really experiencing poverty full on. and often off and on. he would succeed at something and then fail. but the good thing is the printing trade always guaranteed him some kind of work and it also got him in the door in journalism. so, he went from the typesetting room to doing a little bit of spot writing and editve veing and became a successful editor in california for a whole bunch of different newspapers. started his own newspaper and so forth. but his life was very tumultuous. he constantly was sort of doing well and kind of riding on top of the world and then crash, his newspaper would fail. or he would sell his newspaper in order to do something else and then, you know, that would fall through. so he had a lot of -- here, i forgot to advance the slide. there he is in his younger
years at age 25 when he's out there on the make in california. the one way i try to -- i like to encapsulate or bring across this idea of him experiencing this kind of rise and fall it's sort of emblematic of the boom and bust economy. he's his own boom and bust economy so he's trying to figure it out. he writes in his diary and he's a 19th century man, he believes if he works hard enough and tries hard enough and makes good decisions he's guaranteed to succeed and he's always chastising himself for being rash and making bad decisions. he's determined to cultivate habits of determination, energy and industry, feel that i'm in a bad situation and must use my utmost effort to keep afloat and go ahead. so, he's saying i just need to work harder and eventually he's going to come to the conclusion that people like him are not paying just because they lack a little oomph, they are failing because there are larger forces
at work. he ends this entry with saw landlady and told her i was not able to pay the rent. something i think if anybody's been in that position particularly with two young children you know that's not a very good situation to be in. so henry george is shaped a little bit by his own personal background but he's also shaped by the troubling duality of the gilded age. the gilded age is a great metaphor, it's a great term, mark twain coins the term, and it suggests on the one hand things look golden. it is a golden age. and it is an amazing age of technology, of wealth creation, of innovation of booming cities and so forth. things look great. but on the other hand, like a piece of gilded -- think about a gilded bracelet right? if you scratch off the gold, what's underneath there is a dark piece of say, iron not particularly exciting or enamoring, right? so that's the image that the gilded age has this great pizzazz pizzazz great golden hue to it but beneath the surface are
seriously bad, seriously dangerous things happening. it's an age of optimism. you have to trust me that the word says anxiety. i'm not sure why we lost it there. and george will capture it in the famous phrase it's the age of progress and poverty. and he says this is the great problem of the age, but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves. okay. so, let's begin with looking at this idea of progress. how optimistic and upbeat people were in the late 19th century about what was going on. here's president grover cleveland and you can find speeches like this virtually every presidential address has this kind of talk. every american citizen must contemplate with the utmost pride and enthusiasm the growth and expansion of our country, the wonderful thrift and enterprise of our people and the demonstrated superiority of our free government, right? so, cleveland is essentially saying free government free enterprise, everything is great. and we're booming along. of course, just a few weeks after he gives this address the panic of 1893 kicks in and the economy crashes and it's not so
good looking. but cleveland's words really are reflective of how people spoke at all kinds of public events and presidential addresses and so forth about how great things were in that era. and they're not making it up. let's just look, i won't bury you in statistic, but take a look at some of these numbers from the greatest period of american industrialization, this last third of the 19th century, the gilded age. look on the right-hand column you can see the bright red numbers of extraordinary exponential growth in manufactured goods output and just take steel, for example. steel is essentially, like, a boutique industry in 1860, but by 1900 it's really the great dominant, the great representative industry for that era. and really incredible output. so there is wealth creation here. the united states is going -- in 1860 from the status as a developing country kind of like brazil is today, to the world's most dominant economy.
that's just in 40 years. so, it's a pretty astonishing rise. and there's a lot of celebration to go with this. so in 1866 the atlantic cable is lane across the atlantic ocean connecting europe and the united states by telegraph and that's a big national celebration. really in some ways equivalent at least in people's minds of the landing on the moon. really just this amazing technological breakthrough it seems so primitive to us but it was a huge breakthrough at the time. and so too, was the transcontinental railroad. tremendous celebrations. it's way the heck out there in the middle of nowhere in utah but it's essentially broadcast 19th century style telegraph all across the country. when leyland stanford drives the golden spike it sends out a signal. and people in public areas in new york and boston and chicago and everywhere all erupt in cheers when the continent is spanned. this is a great era of world's
fairs or expositions. the philadelphia centennial draws millions and millions of people around the country and the world and the event is technology and there's the corliss gentlemen rater on the right the most amazing peoples of power generating machinery on the face of the earth. it powered the entire exposition. it was a big kind of muscle flexing of america's technology and ingenuity. and locally right here the brooklyn bridge which, you know today we look at the brooklyn bridge and it's this beautiful old bridge, it's got this stone towers and the gothic archways and it really kind of takes us -- a lot of nostalgia associated with the brooklyn bridge but that's not true. when it opened in 1883 it was the most advanced piece of technology certainly in the united states and arguably in the world. it was a very complex machine. it was the great example of what steel could do. and so millions of people turned out for this unveiling of the brooklyn bridge.
the president came. the congress came. world dignitaries came and the speeches, as you can imagine when people gave their speeches talking about this glorious event, they used the word progress, progress, progress over and over again. so there's a lot to celebrate in this time period. now, of course, there's also people would -- if you went to the brooklyn bridge ceremonyies you wouldn't have to walk very far from the brooklyn bridge to find poverty. there's no question that there's poverty in this period, but people who were of an optimistic mind that everything is going great and we don't really need to change anything had various responses to poverty. one was a fairly traditional one. and here you see my people on the right. an irish couple sitting in their shanty. not terribly bothered by their poverty. but josephine lowell was a fame husband anti-poverty reformer but her attitude was very, very traditional. she refers to charity is the problem. poverty is not the problem. charity is the problem.
it's luring what would be hard working people away from their hard work and turning them into as she says idol beggars essentially. so she thinks the problem with poverty -- with poverty is that there's too much charity. americans are too good hearted so she creates an organization called the charity organization society which in truth is actually the charity restriction society. trying to, you know -- because she said there's too many soup kitchens and way too much free coal being given out and way too many free groceries to be had. we need to cut this down so we can help the poor see the virtue virtues of hard work. a more harsh view emerged in this period which is called social darwinism and it has a tremendous influence and these concepts of essentially assigning a scientific and divine plan to poverty have great credence and you hear the words like this coming out of the mouth of john d. rockefeller and andrew carnegie and other people and notice the point here what a blessing to let the
unreformed drunkard and his children die no ambiguity there. the way of the world is for the poor and the drunkard and the glutton and others to die and thankfully when they die, they won't, therefore have any more babies and what benevolence to let the lawless perish and the prudent survive. what publication does it come from? "the christian advocate" so this is not fringe talk this is mainstream talk by people who are trying to make sense of things. if you believe this then you absolutely do not have to worry about poverty. it's going on to take care of itself. the poor you will always have with you that kind of thing. on the one hand there's optimism and it's also a period of tremendous anxiety. and you don't have to look for it very far. in fact, some people were both optimistic and anxious at the same time. they weren't sure which direction the country was heading in. what are people worried about? not just henry george but many people are worried about what
appears to be a rise in poverty. just take a look at this image here. when i show this image in public sometimes i don't put any -- the caption to it. i say, what do you see here? and more importantly, what book would you associate this with? and invariably somebody says dickens and that's exactly what the artist wanted you to think. and this is a really important thing to think about when you think about the late 19th century, about other periods, but the late 19th century, when you think what is the core of the american identity? there's several aspects to it but one of the cores of the american identity in the 19th century was we're not european. it has nothing to do with ethnicity but politics and social arrangements. throughout american history we're constantly worried and in the 20th century we'll be worried about communism. it takes its place. in the 19th century, are we becoming european, are we sliding towards the european style of society where you have kings and queens and landed aris aristocracy and fixed classes
and state supported churches and endless war and social turmoil so this is an image that is really expressing that kind of anxiety. and notice it's not in the socialist advocate, right? it's in the "harpers weekly" the nation's weekly publication. the best-selling one, so it shows, you know a wealthy family and a poor family and raises that question about haves and have-nots and what direction are we heading in. in fact, this is in the middle of the previous terrible depression. i already mentioned the depression of the 1890s. and just to give you a sense of what people are saying, this is a quotation from a very well -- probably one of the most important labor leaders in new york city talking to a congressional committee that traveled the country in 1883 trying to figure out what was going on. what is this -- why this incessant clash between labor and capital. why all these strikes and so forth and mcgwire sees the moment and said look at this city and its long rows of tenement barracks, it goes on you can read it yourself. people are living in squalor he
does it say it here, european squalor. the kind of squalor when we think of dickens and sees like manchester and liverpool, we are heading in that direction and better do something about it or we will no longer have a republic that we would recognize. and walt whitman the great voice of american democracy and certainly a man mostly completely enthusiastic about america and about the modern world and so forth, in 1879 he gives a speech in which he says, you know, just concentrate on what he says here. if the united states, like the countries of the old word, there he is, right? we don't want to be them, the old world countries. if the united states are also to grow vast crops of poor desperate, dissatisfied, miserable populations then our republican experiment notwithstanding all its is your faces successes and i highlight that, is at heart an unhealthy
thing. whitman gets it in a couple of worlds we seem so be trending european and we seem to be losing our republic. i love that phrase, our republican experiment. that phrase was with us as a country and as a society in a political culture right up to the end of the 19th century, and i don't know at a certain point when we became a global power, experiment succeeded and we don't need to worry about it anymore. it was a phrase that everybody used, that it was fragile and unfolding and we needed to care for the republic and make adjustment like any good experiment. and it was born in the late 18th century and it was good. as soon as the constitution's ink was dry we were all set which is not really possible when one looks at the historical record. another source of anxiety. the rise of big business. business bigger than anybody could have conceived of. as henry george says, the founding fathers, they were brilliant people but they could have never conceived of a large
corporation like carnegie steel or standard oil. there's just no way they could imagine that a single individual could have this much power unelected, undemocratic power in a democracy. and here's one of my favorite, i have many of these great cartoons from puck, but this is called the bosses of the senate. now you may be -- let's take a moment to think how fortunate we are to live in a society where big business has not any sway at all in congress. way back in the bad old days the trusts, the big corporations you can see them depicted as money bags, the steel trust, the copper trust, and they are pretty fierce looking people. notice they're coming in through the entrance for monopolists right? there's a big doorway to allow them in. but if you look at the far end you can see the people's entrance is nailed shut. the sign across it saying closed, right? who has access? it's the corporations. who has no access? us, the people. and, of course, the size differential is important, too,
to show the leaders of the republic these senators are actually little kids who -- many of whom are actually cowering in front of the power and the menace of these great corporations and this, again, is not in the "nights of labor monthly" this is a mainstream middle-class publication called "puck" magazine, it is, you know, landing on the doorsteps of middle-class and upper class americans, so this is a kind of wide-ranging anxiety about the nature of the problem in the gilded age. here's another one. it's showing the sort of unfair duel that's taking place. and, again, it's another "puck" magazine one. notice all the symbolism, too big business is depicted as a medieval knight, again royalty, europe aristocracy and so forth and it's a gold knight. gilded age, golden era. it's also a locomotive, too, so it's a combination of the new technology. if you look really closely, the
lance that the knight has says "subsidy sized press" meaning they own the newspapers. they own the media. the shield he is "corruption of the legislature." and the little scrawny working man, he's got a little hammer in his hand saying "strike" the only weapon he has. that's why we have so many strikes. but the only way labor can get attention or relief is to call a strike. most of them end up failing and notice the horse he's riding on is labeled poverty. and notice also the divide on the left-hand side you've got big business tycoons and if you were alive at the time you would recognize the faces it's vanderbilt and jay gould and the titans of wall street and on the right-hand side are skinny emaciated peasants. there's a lot of anxiety here and it's not just poor working people making a dollar a day, it's a widespread anxiety about the direction in which the republic is heading. rising increased inequality.
that also becomes an important theme here. and not just that there's a rise in poverty but there's a -- a huge gap between rich and poor. and it seems to be getting worse. and again, no one's making this up. the data shows that this is absolutely true. the 1% to use a phrase from today own 51% of all wealth. and the lower 44% so less than half the country, owned only 1.2%, so tremendous skewing of wealth in the united states. and it raised this kind of question about this, you know, sure, it's a free market and such, but does this -- can this -- is this a sustainable trend? and if you look at where we are today, people always ask, how does this compare to today? in 2010 which is the latest data that i have the 1% owns about 35% of all wealth and that is rising rapidly and it's up from 20% in 1979, so to put it another way, in the century from the late 19th century to the late 20th century wealth disparity actually decreased.
think about after world war ii especially the new deal, the postwar period, we were never more equal and we were never more wealthy it's a very important thing to kind of think about in that 30-year period. another aspect, again, on this european theme, sure we have superrich people and a growing mass of poor people. what are the rich doing? people are not imagining the europeanization of america and the emer jedge of an american aristocracy, they are actually putting on the airs. the woman on the right -- on the left is a wife of a very powerful businessman. she's dressed up for a costume ball as marie antoinet and there are people that are going to dress up as louie thexiv it's unacceptable to mimic european royalty in a kind of admiring way tells you that something has
shifted in the gilded age, that the nouveau riche are acting differently. there's the ideal of republican simplicity. which by the way if you want to see it in new york, you can see the mansion, the one on the right is mrs. vanderbilt and her husband has built her a stupendous, not a mansion really, a palace on fifth avenue and there are a whole bunch of palaces like it on fifth avenue, so that's how the rich express their wealth, you know, what eventually in this period called conspicuous consumption but if you go down to grammers ersgramercy park, that's where the rich live in the 1830s and '40s. the houses are nice but they are very plain. most unadorned brown stone. you don't flaunt it but 50 years later you flaunt it as much as possible and mrs. vanderbilt's ball will cost millions of dollars in our today's money it will be covered by the press and it will touch off a whole competition about who could
throw the biggest and most expensive and most outrageous display of conspicuous consumption. and here's just to let you know, again, if i'd shown you the image on the right just that interior image many of you would not have thought of america, you would have thought of versailles, of an opulent room furnished with all the finest thing and gold leaf but that's fifth avenue in new york and that's the housewarming party that she threw in march of 1883. another source of anxiety rising labor capital conflict. it's not imagination. it's actually happening on a scale never seen before in american history. here's the famous hay market incident from may 4th 1886. it's one of the most famous incidents. there's a lot of others. between 1881 and 1900 there were 37,000 strikes. in the years -- in all of american history, up to 1881, i'll bet you there was no more than 3 ,000 strikes, i mean, so this is just a monumental growth
in strikes and some of these are the biggest strikes in american history. strikes in which 100 people are killed in clashes with police and militia and so forth. strikes in which the entire national railroad system is shut down so these are big, big strikes and there are also small strikes neighborhood strikes as well and it's got people saying, you know, what society do we associate with this kind of class clashing violence? it's europe. and so it seemed to be another source of evidence that we are losing our republican soul. why is labor day founded here in new york city in 1882? it's founded by workers p.g. mcgwire the man i quoted earlier, in 19882, why do they do? because they feel are slipping their wages are declining. their power in the workplace is declining. the way their position in society seems to be slipping and so they call -- they say let's have a day and they pick may
5th -- september 5th 1882, and they stage a parade and a big picnic about 5,000 people show up. within five years it's happening all across the country. within ten years it's a national holiday. that tells you a lot this invention of a holiday that there's something happening in this time period that people are calling attention to a social -- a social problem that needs addressing. all right. so henry george how does he figure into all this? well, in the 1870s he's a newspaper editor. and he increasingly is identified as a reformist editor. he's taking on questions of land reform. regulating the railroads big questions out there in california. the rights of workers and so forth. and he is like a lot of people, really troubled by this dual quality that so much great stuff is happening with industrial capitalism but also so many problems seem to be associated with it. is there a way we can keep the good stuff and get rid of the other stuff what he terms progress and poverty. can we keep the progress and not
have so much poverty and so much turmoil. and, of course, other people were proposing solutions, right? there were socialists, the big birth of the socialist movement during this time period and george will make a very conscious decision to position himself as not a socialist. he will say there are capitalists that say let us run our businesses the way we ought to and that's an extreme to avoid and he said socialism is an extreme we need to avoid. it's a little more complicated. he defines it in a couple different ways, he talks about revolutionary socialism as opposed to gradual socialism. he likes gradual socialism sort of phased in over 100 years. henry george in his spare time, he only has a seventh grade education but he reads like mad, he reads economics and he reads adam smith and all the important political economists and determines they all got it wrong and he is going to sort this thing out and come up with a
diagnosis and a prescription. and there are a couple -- he's a wonderful writer for a guy with a marginal education and this in some way indicates why he becomes so popular. he has complicated economic sections but a lot is beautifully written and poetic and it's biblical and he cites the bible and other figures. and here's essentially the crux of the problem. it is as though an immense wedge were being forced not underneath society which, of course, would lift everybody but through society. those who are above the point of separation are elevated. the few. but those who are below are crushed down. and he says that's the problem. we have to figure out where this wedge is coming from and how we can redirect it. all right. a couple -- i won't bury you. the book is 535 pages, so it would take us a couple of days to read through it. but i'll give you a couple of other nuggets from it. everywhere it is evident that this tendency to inequality
cannot go much further without carrying our civilization into the downward path which so easy to enter and so hard to abandon. george cites history. he said what happened to rome? rome was prosperous and mighty and full of science and learning and incredible progress. and then rome just slid off the -- you know, off the cliff. what happened? and he says, you know, what happened was people began to monopolize land and the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and they hit a certain we would call today a tipping point and there's no going back. the society starts to slide and slides inevitably into the dustbin of history. he said we're on that path. it's not too late yet but we have to be very very careful. we can't wait. we have to act immediately. just think about the rell vagesevance of this quotation to our times in some ways. though knowledge increases and inventions march on civilization has begun to wane when in proportion to population we must build more and more prisons,
more and more insane asylums. we've got all this good stuff happening but yet we're building more jails and poorhouses. this is -- something is clearly not right. all right. so, he diagnoses the problem in 535 pages. as saying that what happens is that the wealthy -- people in fortunate positions, lucky people, crafty people, aregain ing monopolizeing things and creating destructive inequality. the rich will get richer and the poor will become poorer and we'll lose our republican soul. the solution she comes up with which is not as important's his diagnosis. people loved his diagnosis. very vivid. very powerful. very alarming to hear what he had to say about where we were going. they're not so necessarily so enamored, although there are people enamored with it, with
his single tax, his notion that we need to establish a single tax on land and that will solve everything. but the point i make before that is that we have to -- small government has been great up to this point but the founding fathers could never have imagined a national railroad system, a steel company the size of carnegie steel or petroleum company the size of standard oil and we need to make some small steps towards curbing certain aspects of the economy. and his idea is the single tax. some people, again, as i say try -- they like what henry george has to say in kind of a general way. they're not necessarily signing on to the single tax but there's a lot of people who like the idea of a single tax and one of the groups we'll talk about in just a moment who liked what he had to say were urban workers. most are landless people and they pay huge amounts of money in rent for the tenements that they live in. the message has resonance on different levels for different people. all right. so, progress and poverty.
written by a guy with a seventh grade education who self-publishes it to start, right? he can't get anybody to buy it. harpers none of the big publishers will buy it. but he's a printer. so, he says okay, i'll borrow money from friends and self-publish it and send it back to the publishers and it works. he sends one to appletons which was a huge publisher now that you set the plates and make it inexpensive for us and he moves to new york city, because he knows if you are a san francisco editor the chances of having an impact are much, much smaller. come to new york where things are happening. also new york is sort of the gateway where american ideas go to europe and european ideas come to america so there's this kind of a chance that this will be a global phenomenon and it works out perfectly. he gets to new york city at just the right moment when things are beginning to happen. one of those things is the irish nationalist movement is exploding and he's not irish but his message has great resonance
with irish catholics who are -- one of the largest ethnic groups in america and he finds this is a great way to kind of get noticed and to get speaking gigs and to find his first real audience and also to get -- he becomes well known in great britain as a result of that. all right. so why does he appeal to workers? let's look at this as one of the many questions. when he writes his book he's thinking i'll just wow everybody. and it turns out his first real core group are american workers and one of the main reasons is that he challenges that fundamental or that traditional understanding of poverty the one we saw josephine shaw lowell kind of touching on. poverty the traditional interpretation was it's inevitable, you really can't do anything about it, and those who are poor just need to endure it, right? just need to grin and bear it and their reward in heaven will be great. that's sort of the old fashioned way of dealing with it. it's easy to say that, it's not easy to hear that when you're the poor person. and here's what one of the workers who became a big henry
george follower and a key figure in his rise to influence and also his eventual run for mayor of new york city. he describes it succinctly, "progress and poverty" reversed all this teaching that poverty is an artificial condition of man's invention. and i love this last part. working men and women learning all this comedgeed edcommenced with their change. that's why there is so much tumult in the 1880s especially here in new york city. now the period 1885, 1886 1887 is often called by historians the great upheaval because there's a huge spike in strikes. a lot of labor mobilization and in '86 and '87 a huge campaign of labor parties that form all across the country in protest to big crackdown on labor and labor activism. in new york city in 1886 over the summer of '86 in the wake of strikes and boycotts and sort of
in the national atmosphere after the hay market bombing in chicago in may of '86 100 labor activists are arrested, many of them given actually very long prison terms for -- there was -- it was pretty easy to do that actually because they were accused of and tried and convicted of conspiracy. so if you called a strike or called a boycott against an employer, in the eyes of the law you were guilty of conspiring with your fellow workers to destroy the business of another person, so you could be put away. this is a -- one of the big strikes that takes place the streetcars in new york city. the streetcars which precede the subway system are privately owned and they're given franchises. they make millions of dollars a year. they bribe the -- i have a great graphic that shows the new york city council had 24 members in 1884 and there's a front page article in "the new york times" to show one of the largest streetcar owners bribed nearly
every one of them 22 of the 24 city councillors took a huge bribe, $25,000 which in 1884 was a lot of money and their status, thomas clancy, third district, fled the country, you know, and in jail in jail, out on bail. this incredible list of people. and so the anger at the streetcar companies, they were terrible employer, and there were three big streetcar strikes in the spring of 1886 that played -- a lot of boycotts and a lot of other labor action that result in this big crackdown on labor. a lot of workers arrested. a lot of unions prosecuted and so forth and that sort of sets the stage for the labor response. labor's divided in the gilded age. should we form a labor party like they're doing in europe? or should we try to influence the democratic party? you know kind of withhold our support for one candidate or another? called the balance of power strategy. and one of the reasons why they resisted labor parties is they
always failed miserably. you know, there were labor parties before this and a labor party candidate for mayor would get, like 3 29 votes that's it. 500 votes a symbolic. it was a waste of time. a waste of money. deeply embarrassing and it also divided the labor movement people said this is why we shouldn't do this. let's stop trying to form a labor party. all the crackdown and all the turmoil in the summer of '86 leaves even the most jaded person to say, let's do it. the united labor party is formed and they, you know, don't just grab any old carpenter or bricklayer to run for mayor. they say we've got to get somebody who has some credibility and henry george is perfect. he has this long record of being an advocate of workers rights and reform and he's also a card-holding member of the knights of labor and he's a member of the typographer's union and he's got this credibility that goes a long way to get people to nominate him. he's nominated in august of 1886
to run for mayor. the odds are to i sasay the least are stacked against him tammany hall is a huge machine. and the republican party is equally formidable, they have money and experience and the workers have none of those things. here's an optimistic view of things, henry george shown as hercules grabbing one of the more common symbols of monopoly along with an octopus showing george grabbing the serpent and the serpent is labeled monopoly and trust and graft and so forth and he's going to do in the serpent and that's new york city hall in the background. to do that he has to defeat two people abram hewitt who is a congressman with a great deal of credibility and actually relatively speaking he can actually claim to be a friend of the working man. he authored some minor pro-labor legislation. he was at least considered a pretty good employer in his iron
works, so he had an ability at least to claim that he was a pro-labor candidate. and then there's this guy that people are just starting to learn about, a man named theodore roosevelt, who left new york when his wife and mother died tragically. went out and did his ranching thing and he'd just come back to the city and was looking to get back into politics and the republican party grabbed him and made him their candidate. now, you remember that image of the knight on the horse with the lance pointed at the working man and it said subsidized press? the press is 100% on the side as you can imagine -- or at least 100% against henry george. here you see a vivid image from "puck." they are capable of publishing pro-labor cartoons and anti-labor cartoons week after week. this is not necessarily anti-labor. here you have the devil standing behind a worker and saying don't be fooled. george has got snake oil. he's got these great ideas about -- and his corn knewcornucopia
in the background, money he's going to give it away. the way the powers that be in the late 19th century is tried to derail george, they couldn't say workers are stupid, right? because they need the workers' vote, you are being deluded. don't be fooled by this wolf in sheep's clothing and there's a lot of this kind of imagery. here's an image of the statue of liberty which was unveiled that fall. it's unveiled in late october of '86 and the election of '86 takes place a couple days later so it's a very new symbol. she can stand it and around the statue of liberty are forces of communism, forces of socialism, forces of anarchism and forces of as you can see in the blowup there forces of georgism right? lumping him in there with all this -- what they say -- kind of tarring him with that idea that he's right up there with the anarchists and the>u.- violent
insurrecollectioninsur insurrectionists. and he'll mobilize the tramp vote and the poor and we'll have social chaos. a tramp is barging into a middle family's house and taking food. they are going to barge in on you and we'll have anarchy in our society if guys like george are put in power. and here's another cartoon sowing abram hewitt he's the locomotive and teddy roosevelt sort of hanging on there with his lasso and they're about to run over henry george. it's not "progress and poverty" it's "how to prevent progress" by henry george. so there's a big media mobilization against him consistently characterizing george as either, you know, an air-headed dreamer or and more and more as the election approached an agent who -- of
insurrection, of anarchy and if he's elected blood will below in the streets of new york and all across the country. it sounds wild but this was what mainline candidates like abram hewitt were saying. george has a lot to contend with as do his supporters and they do what has never been done before, they stage an incredible grassroots campaign. george doesn't even campaign. he gives five friends and gives five little speeches most of which denounce henry george as a red-handed communist. george is out every night giving five, seven eight speeches in front of factories and streetcar stops and so forth and it's called the tailboard campaign and it's never been done before and it's a grassroots mobilization and they have nothing to lose because they realize if they get people to vote, they might actually if not win the election make a difference and lo and behold instead of 3 29 votes or 400
votes he gets 68,000 votes. we'll never know if george had run straight up against hewitt how it might have turned out but he outpolled the republican theodore roosevelt and there was a big question about whether he lost the election because of tammany hall's ballot box shenanigans. there's a lot of allegations that tammany stole-÷" ballots, that ste they stuffed ballot boxes. the fact is we'll never know. we know that tammany absolutely positively could have done it, that they had done it in the past so they were really good at it but we just don't know if that, in fact happened. but it certainly makes a big impression. of all the labor party candidates across the country, george is the one that people are watching. it's the one that, you know, frederick engles and karl marx are wapg it writetching it and writing letters back and forth, who is
henry george, they don't agree with him but he certainly seems to be pushing our agenda in the overthrow of capitalism. here's a cartoon in the wake of george's defeat but a pretty impressive defeat and he's looking mighty and the quotation is basically saying we nearly won against a splintered opposition, they are united against us and we better have a bigger hammer. there's a real optimism coming out of this election among the george supporters and the labor movement and not only locally but nationally. something is happening here. we could easily see a third party go national in a couple years and run, you know like in europe a true third party that would be an alternative to the mainstream parties that are in the hands of big business. and here's george on the eve of his -- this is his concession speech. and he basically says the future is ours. this was bunker hill, right? bunker hill, the continentals were driven back but they symbolically won a victory that resounded around the world. they made a -- they won a
victory that made this republic a reality and thank god men of new york, we in this fight have won a victory that makes the true republic of the future certain, certain in our time. it was a time i wanted to name the book, you know, "the true republic of the future" because i think it's a recognition that george is saying, you know, you have to adjust things, right? republics aren't just born in the 1780s and they're done right? it's an evolution and we need to get back on track to adjust to this modern world of industry and so forth and technology and if we do it, we can have a republic that will endure into the future. you can see that the attitude of the powers that be the republican and democratic parties, were very very terrified by this result. and, again, couldn't denounce workers for voting for george in such huge numbers so you see the same kind of patronizing tone here. nice job, very impressive. but you've got to get rid of that friend of yours and, of course, the friend is that classic symbol of anarchy in the
background meaning that henry george, socialism, anarchism and you need to come back to the mainstream. and they make big adjustments in the wake of the george election, they author pro-labor legislation aimed at bringing the working class into the democratic party, a little bit into the republican party but mostly into the democratic party. so what's the legacy of henry george? at the moment of the election everybody is thinking this is just the first step. this will be a big thing not only for us but also for george. there are many people saying george is going to be president of the united states in a couple years. it just seems that that's the way in which the world is moving. the next year in 1887 the united labor party decides to contest elections and it just falls apart. and george breaks with them. there's a tremendous internal schism. fights with socialists. fights with the workers and so forth. and it's something i detail in one of the latter chapters of the work and try to explain why george seems to have changed his mind about being allied with the
labor movement so closely as he was in 1886 and in the years before that. and a lot of it i think has to do with the red scare tactics. he read the writing on the wall was clear that if you want to have any influence in this country after hay market, after the great upheaval, you cannot be associated with socialism communism and anarchism and i think he basically gives the labor movement the heisman and says, sorry but i can't be associated with this anymore and it's tragic because it ends his ascent essentially on that track. certainly is over. he continues to be influential. he continues to write books and, of course, his books are still in print to this dha.ay. but that aspect of george leadingage insurgent social movement, that is over. but george's influence is remarkable. he sort of fades from the scene, but the number of people i list this all on the back of the book literally dozens of people who you know very well lincoln
stephens and jacob reese and jane adams and just a who's who list of progressive era reformers say in their memoirs in letters to their friends, do you know what really turned my -- what opened my eyes? somebody gave me a copy of "progress and poverty." and it's an incredible number of people who found this book to be a great eye opener and it really set them on their path in the next generation, the generation we call the progressive era. so that's in some ways some of the biggest aspects of george's legacy and why he's worth knowing. i should also point out that most people don't know this but the game monopoly comes from henry george, not him directly, but one of his followers worked up a game which she called the landlords game to demonstrate how easy it is and how pernicious it is for people to monopolize resources and to squeeze everybody out and put everybody out of business. and to make a long story short, the game kicked around for a while and a guy took the game
and changed the name and the words and he sells it to parker brothers and they make monopoly the most famous board game in the world. and monopoly the most popular game in the world. people know that in fact if you remember the in the 1970s, there was an anti-monopoly game that came out. what else about henry george? why is he important then and why is he important now? for one, henry george explains in vivid clear understandable and in many ways disputable evidence that supreme inequality threatens democracy. as americans we love terms and ideas. what are our great republican ideals? freedom, individualism, justice. equality -- we're always leery about equality. it makes us the most nervous.
we like the idea but don't necessarily like the way that some of the things that it tends to suggest. but george says look extreme inequality will destroy democracy. . and we need to find ways to limit extreme inequality in order to preserve our democracy. it's an ir veriersable loss. if we lose our democracy, it's not going to come back. a second key point -- and of course, that has tremendous consequences today. you really need to be a multi, multimillionaire to run for president now or for congress for that matter is a real, significant problem. george reminds us -- more and more americans are calling themselves libertarians than certainly i can remember -- as
though libretariasm is the american way. but so too, is the common good, the idea that we are all in this together and enact policies that attend to the common good. and you can be selfish about t. right? as people did in the 1830s, there's nothing in the constitution about education. but in the 1830s, we began as a country to say, you know public education is both a good thing to do and a really smart thing to do because less murders and social turmoil and so forth. george is reminded people that individualism is not the only ideal, that it is always existent side by side in tension with, in conflict with but always there with individualism is the common good and we need to remember that. and i think that's a really powerful idea that needs to come back into our national
conversations about everything. about health care, the education and environment. we get caught up in these other ideas of ideological extremes and forget the core principles are right there in front ofs us and one of them being the common good. the government dare i say, that everyone seems to despise but as soon as you start to take away the government from people, people get very upset. they like driving on roads and having stoplights to control traffic. they like having public schools. they like having police officers and so forth keeping public order. but the fact is that the government and not the free market is part of the solution. total sense in 1800, in the sense of small farmers and
shops, it made sense. but now it makes no sense. he starts his book by saying imagine time -- if we could bring benjamin franklin into the late 1870s, he'd be amazed of the technology but agas about the poverty. strong societies make adjustments and one of those adjustments, as the people, is to empower the government to do certain things, enact certain poll teas in the same of the common good in the name of democracy. that's really, in some ways, those things are key to understanding why george matters now. so thank you very much. [ applause ] we do have time for questions.
this evening is being filmed by c-span and so they've asked that anybody asking questions so that it can be part of the program, would come down to the microphones at the end of the walkway here. so please, if anybody has any questions, please jump right up. i'd love to hear them. >> thank you. that was a really good talk. >> thanks. >> what did henry george have to say, if anything, about immigration? because immigration was a very big issue at this time as well. >> right. the parallels of gilded age are not just about the economy and poverty and corporations. it's an era of tremendous wrangling of immigration and a movement to deprive poor people of the vote. there's a lot of parl parallels there. george's early day as a reformer and writer in california he wrote some pretty blistering things about the chinese immigration. but as anybody would tell you,
that was sort of mainstream thinking at the time. not to let them off the hook but progressives -- i can't think of the historian but they wrote that progressives stopped with the chinese. you could be progressive and open-minded about everything but draw the line and say, but the chinese are excepted. early on he was pretty harsh about chinese immigration, not immigration in general. he gradually moved away from that quite explicitly by the time he wrote "progress and poverty." he said immigration is a reflection of a problem of inequality so that in some ways we need to address that both here and abroad. but he was a very toll lant person as far as immigration goes. if he wrote anything critical about immigration is being people forced to migrate as opposed to it being a social problem for the united states. >> this is a two-part question.
the first is could you explain george's point about taxing land and that essential economic principle? >> yep. >> the second is the political delay book, he argues that the american companies are so decentralized that it pits them against progress of any kind. henry george seemed to think that there was a moral principle at work here but structurally, our political system to the wealthy having a significant edge in the way the constitution was designed, it makes with you fr reform as long standing as possible. >> i usually preface my question by saying by the way, i'm an historian, not an economist so i have trouble explaining george's economic theory. george himself never got too
much into the details. he sort of said, look, to him it didn't make perfect sense. it didn't need a great explanation. basically he said you know land -- especially land -- it drives its value not because in it and of itself it is valuable -- we see this in new york city. i was at wall street this morning. 55 broad street a hole in the ground. i said to the person i was walking with, i've always wondered how much that piece of land is worth. dirtwise, it's just as valuable as some place in the middle of north dakota. but it's socially agreecreated wealth. it's probably worth $1 billion. george said that's valued by us. it's our energy. it's our creativity. it's what we put into the market, what we take out of the market. therefore, that valley needs to be taxed for the common good and
that was his essential good. if a piece of property is worth $500 you can use it as though it's private property but you end at the end of the year $500. if you don't want to pay it fine walk away. that farm, that workshop will be sold or -- again, he doesn't say sell. sort of handed over to another person who is willing to work it and pay that fee. so, again, more -- it's more the broad ideas that he's talking about here than the specifics of that reform that really matter to most people. and then -- so that's question one. number two, our political system. we have a wonderful political system but the question got to a really important point which is, we do have a system very different from much of western europe. and so one of the great eternal questions in american history is why don't we, unlike -- why are we so different from other industrialized societies? they are powerful and they win
elections. why not in america? there's all kinds of explanations, examples given about our political culture and history and so forth. one of them is it's just impossible to form a third party. and to do these things because we have this federal system and it's win or take all, unlike a parliamentary system. so, you know, if you look at the history of europe and other countries where a labor party gets going they win three seats in parliament. they get that seven seats and nine seats and then there's a big old throw the buns out election and they are part of a coalition and that simply doesn't happen in the united states. so new ideas can be tried and go national but i think in terms of a real long-standing structural change it makes it very
difficult. >> i should be alternating. >> i'm addressing some of your discussion with some kind of long term study of henry george which i do not think you addressed adequately. i think your pictures and your history were lovely but, in fact, you did not address the science of political economy which is probably the best book on political economy anybody has ever written and its analysis of land, labor, and capital and the
scale but he you know historically, talks about rather glowingly about the heyday of imperialism and that order. so i don't know -- there probably is -- there probably are passages in his writings but social problems which is his collection of essays but i don't know. i think he saw a host of other problems, like inequality, like social sur moil and strikes as far more dangerous and immoral than imperialism and again i'm thinking my way through this answer right in front of you. part of it is the time period of the 1870s, 1880s, the united
states is acquiring and that accounts for why he may have talked about it in an abstract term but certainly not in u.s. terms. i'm going to alternate. >> thank you so much. i see parallels between what you have spoken about and our country time and i happen to be wearing a bernie sanders t-shirt. so my question is. >> he's certainly in the news. >> what do you think about -- not the media but the computer the conversation that we're having and his progress through to the common people? >> you mean in term of bernie sanders moment that is happening now? >> as a nominee and current president of the united states? >> well you know, it's an
interesting question and i don't know how to -- his position is very healthy for -- because he's bringing up and forcing conversations like inequality and people would much more like to talk about undocumented immigrants and in crazy termses than talking about inequality. i don't know if bernie sanders will ever get nominated or elected but another interesting thing about him is he has the -- he's brave enough to call himself openly a democratic socialist and does show, in some ways, the poverty of political imagination that that's a deal breaker for people, without even understanding what that actually means. americans have long, way before henry george, decided socialism is an unadulterated evil and it's un-american and throughout
our history we have embraced many aspects of socialism that we would not want to live without. so i don't know. following bernie sanders with great interest, let's put it that way. >> near the beginning you made the comment about history not repeating but perhaps rhyming. i was just curious. most of your conclusions were about similarities between this period and the gilded age. could you talk a little bit perhaps about what you see as differences between the gilded age and this period? >> well, let's see. horses. lots of things. just thinking of what it was like to live in new york in the 1870s and 1880s. they are very different eras and there are some things that are utterly and completely different technology, just the way we communicate. the way our politics and the way our recreation, our politics and everything is so fundamentally
different from what was taking place in the 19th century. in the late 19th century the gilded age if you wanted to communicate you publish something in a newspaper or a magazine or gave a public lecture and that was it whereas now it's so fragmented. i don't even know -- to me, i would say born in 1963 so i remember typewriters and rotary phones and i'm just sort of have one foot firmly planted in that world. i use computer technology all the time. i would say that is one of the great differences and what it means i don't know but it is one of the great differences. some people look at that and say that's where the great reform is going to take place, this kind of grassroots reform movement that can be done through people's iphones and social media. this is how we're going to get people to the polls, to shake things up to get politics out of the clutches of the hands of big business. i don't know. on the other hand the other way of looking at it people are too
busy looking at their screens and playing games and cat videos that they're not paying attention. they're upset. they're angry but they're not paying attention. so i would say that's probably the biggest difference. there clearly are -- our economy is different our position in the world is different. our military is up until i was -- students are always fascinated to learn this. one of the things is a couple thousand people, if you have a standing army, a military, that's how tyrannies. we had five ways to go to war as a society in the united states. pif steps. first, declare war. the second step is say, oh, my gosh, we don't have a military. the third step build a military. win the war. fifth step dismantle the military. that's another thing when we look at where our resources go and how we talk about that. that's another massive difference between then and now.
>> writings on inequality during the gilded age did george discuss the end of reconstruction and the disenfranchisement of african-americans? >> yes, he did. george didn't have a lot to say about racial economies. he spoke in racial equality terms but when he talked about reconstruction, he talked about it in only one way which was you want to see the evidence why land is so important, giving people freedom, back to the point earlier, citizenship requires material well-being. there's an economic dimension to it. when slaved people are granted their freedom and no land, guess what happens? they are going to be put in not
slavery again but something close to it. complete powerlessness for a long, long time. that's what he spoke of. that was the primary thing that he spoke about. >> did henry george in any of his books address the role of warfare or war in the political economy of the united states? >> well, i think that's a good question. i need to think on that a little bit. he talks about warfare as being one of the options of a -- an undemocratic government. what do governments do when dealing with social problems? they declare war. i think i anticipated that because saying that in 1879 when he writes his book progress in poverty the american military is tiny and the only place that it's big is out west completing
the suppression of native americans and even then it's not very many people relatively speaking so i think the military did not loom very large in people's minds. in the late 19th century. it will start to right around 1880 is when we start to expand our navy and we start getting certainly navy wise we start to build up our military as the notion of ourselves emerging as a global power but i think the military, i would say george would argue, as did most people in the time period, the real sources of power that we have to be worried about are these large business tycoons, these large corporations because this is not just power, it's unelected, untouchable power unless we do something about it, in the name
of the common good, in the name of democracy that we need to reign some of this power in. not eliminate it or seize control but find ways to set up boundaries, parameters for their behavior. all right. thank you very much, folks. hello. this is hillary clinton. i want to thank you for letting me speak with you about an issue that is central to our children's future and critical in offer fight to restore this nation ds economy. solving our nation's health care crisis. >> there is no prescription or role model or cookbook for being first lady. >> a future is created every day. the future is not something that is out there waiting to happen
to us. the future is something that we make. >> i have said and i believe that there is a good possibility that sometime in the next 20 years we will have a woman president. >> hillary clinton experienced many firsts in her role as first lady. she and husband, president bill clinton, have been political partners since law school. she's endured several scandals, including her impeachment. her story is still being written. hillary clinton this sunday night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span's original series, "first ladies: influence and image," examining the public and private lives of the women who filled the positions of first ladies from martha washington to michelle obama sunday at 8:00 p.m. on c-span 3.
>> three months ago, young men trained in a new concept of war. proud, sure of themselves but still to be tested in battle. they were destined for the high country of central vietnam. last week, some of them came home their lives were the price of victory in the battle. cbs news correspondent was there. this is where it all began. the special forces camp. on the night of october 19th 11:00 p.m., the first mortar rounds fell. >> what are the vietcong that you met here?
>> i would give anything to have 2 of them under my command. they are the finest soldiers i have seen. >> it was clear that the e5óe had been hurt badly but we had paid dearly. it was almost like looking at old reels of the pacific war. the same old faces, the same shattered landscape, the same agony. >> it was pretty bad. we walked right into an ambush. and we hit the ground. out there about three-foot high i look over that and snipers could pick you up real easy and let you have it. >> does it frighten you now to think about it? >> yes it does. it was pretty bad listening to your friends crying out for help and not being able to do anything.
we just couldn't do anything. all pinned down. >> the secretary of the army has asked me to express the deep regret that 14 november 1965 he has died. >> he told me, he said, honey we've already heard them say that they were very taking over one side of the country at a time, before you know it, all of the countries will be taken over and eventually we would be left alone and he couldn't take them. and he said, i'd rather go now than wait 20 years and have my son go because it might be too late in 20 years. >> ready, aim,
aim! shoot! aim! shoot! >> and he said the most tresh treasured hours and weeks and months was in columbus. so i will stay here. >> san diego state university liz elizabeth cobbs talks about the creation of the federal government. she talks about how states operated as separate countries which often caused problems. hamilton, one of the authors of the federalists papers, argued during the constitutional convention for a strong central government to mediate between the states. this class is about 50 minutes. >> so i think one of the most interesting things about world history is the way in which we discover how there are big patterns and big patterns that sometimes touch the life of an individual